Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Birthday Samuel!


Today is this guy's 5th Birthday! 
You may recall where we took Emily and Rachel for each of their 5th birthday's and yes, we are there again today celebrating big time.

Happy Birthday, little man - we love you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quiet: Spending Less


* Photo: sort of unrelated but fun because Rachel said I was wearing "her style" this particular day. She has a real flair for putting unusual combinations together and yet they really work for her!

 When I thought of a list of things I hoped to "quiet" here, spending was one of the ideas that came to mind. I am a pretty thrifty and budget conscious person - but I knew I could be doing better. It has been so fun to {as my Mom says} see it as a game to see how inexpensively I could make our month and I hope to continue this throughout the year!

I've had a number of fun things on this front since around Christmas - I will share a few of them here:

* Penney's buttons: $50 in gift certificates! Did you see the buttons Penney's was giving out in December? My Mom and I had a bunch and when we logged on to check our codes we scored about $50 in free gift certificates to spend in the store. We got jewelery for my Mom and Aunt Mary to wear to their sister's wedding at a great discount, socks for a gift, jeans for me also with a certificate  and best of all we had bought black dress socks for Nathan and Samuel {also for the wedding} and were able to return those and buy them another day with a $10 code - FREE!


* Coke points: my Dad found a code from a 20 pack of Coke out on the bike trail one day. When I logged in to enter the code, I saw they were having their Wednesday special and it was a free 12 pack coupon for only 30 points instead of 250! I snagged four coupons.

* I gave three boys/mens hair cuts in a week to family members!

* I have been using free exercise videos on You Tube occasionally instead of buying a new one.

* And, I've made a number of Christmas gifts for next year for practically nothing!

I don't share this to brag, but with enthusiasm at being diligent in spending less. It feels great and as my Mom also says {she has a lot of wisdom doesn't she!?} success breeds success. I am energized and motivated to continue the thrifty game in the weeks ahead. We both love reading the Prudent Homemaker's weekly posts of frugal things she has done each week. And, I loved this post from Wendi on mending!

Monday, January 28, 2013

January Goals


I am always amazed at Crystal's weekly goal posts. And, really think I would be setting myself up for failure to attempt something so detailed and lengthy! But, I do love the idea of having goals and then seeing those goals met and the satisfaction that comes with that.

So, over Christmas - I decided to write down some goals for the coming month and thought it would be helpful to me to go back and see how I did on those goals. It's been rewarding already - here goes:

* Kitchen Organization: in talking with my Mom, I identified some problem spots and together we came up with some ideas. You can catch a glimpse of my medicine/vitamin space in my Slow Day post here.

* Use my Crock Pot at least once a week. I haven't actually kept track to know officially if I did this, but I can think of more than four things I made in the Crock Pot, so to me that qualifies!


* Exercise three times a week. Similar to the Crock Pot one, I did not actually keep track. But, I've been using My Fitness Pal and I know that I've walked average of more than three times a week. Sometimes I just walk one mile and sometimes two - but the point is I am doing it!

* Institute a mini quiet retreat each evening. Not quite as successful on this one. I had hoped to set aside even ten or fifteen minutes to just sit quietly and read or relax each evening. I have done much better at getting this time in in the evenings - but haven't gotten consistent yet.



* Make faux grain sack pillow. Done!

* Try to crochet a gingerbread hat. Um, not even sure I want this to be a goal anymore! After watching the little tutorial video - I am not sure I'm up to the task! Rachel wants a gingerbread party this summer and loves hats so it was a fun idea, but we have a lot of other fun ideas too!

* Read two books. I somehow managed to go way over this and am including movies I watched here too:


Books:
Inspired You
Cleaning House
Back Home Again
Going to the Chapel
Home for the Holidays
The Spirit of the Season

Movies:
Foyle's War
Land Girls - season one
Downton Abbey
The Heart of Christmas
Homeless for the Holidays
The Christmas Pageant
Pride and Prejudice
Little Women
Christmas Miracle
Flicka: Country Pride
Mrs. Miracle
Love Comes Softly 
Big Miracle



* Stay within my grocery budget. I stayed within $5 of my grocery budget which is really good compared to how it seems to have been going the past several months. I joined Sam's Club after thinking about it for ages and have been pleased with going once a month for a big shopping and then weekly for milk, produce and any great sales. I am SO thrilled to have done so well on this.

* Get restarted with Fly Lady. Yes, I've been doing this too! Diligently assigning chores to my children has helped me in this area. Not because they are doing it all for me, but I am giving them the easier parts of what needs to be done and then that leaves less for me to do which really helps. It also is a great time for me to work on things while they are working too.

I did not completely finish all of these things, but I am so pleased with the results of setting the goals and meeting most of them or at least making progress. Now to ponder what my February goals will be! How was January for you and any goals you had?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winner

The winner of the Cleaning House book is Ami!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Family Night: Free Food and Flashlight Fun


This crazy idea was born out of my desire to clean up some of the coupons floating around for several weeks on my counters. I had free coupons for four free tacos from Taco Bell, two free kids meals at Zaxby's and two chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A! I was struggling to use them because at any one restaurant it wasn't enough to feed our family and I didn't want to fork out the extra for the extra food.

So, one night on the way home from ballet we swung through each and used our free coupons where I spent exactly $0.00 and came out with dinner for five people. Hooray!

I'm guessing one of the next questions I'm going to get is where did I get these coupons and how you can get some of them too. The Chick-fil-A coupons came from their coupon calendars they put out each year. One was a gift and one was free with a gift card purchase - we were there to eat lunch anyway, so purchasing a gift card to use to pay for lunch and get a free calendar seemed like a no brainer. Zaxby's has a great kids club you can sign up for and they send free cookie coupons several times a year and even free kids meals at the child's birthday and a couple of other times a year. The Taco Bell coupons come from basketball games David works - when you buy a ticket to get into the game, these coupons are on the other side and he hunts for abandoned tickets to save!

After our random assortment of free food and some clean up, we played a fun game of flashlight hide and seek. I had not thought of this until I saw some mention of it by my friend Joy who said they play it during power outages. We turned off all the lights and only the counter/seeker was allowed a flashlight. Great fun was had by all!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coupon Club Gift Card


In continuing my theme of working ahead on gifts for next year, I remembered fun little coupon books my Mom used to make us when we were younger. She always used the same ivory paper stapled together on one side that had been perforated with some sort of sewing notion I'm speculating. At any rate, they were always fun and we are hoping to lessen the "stuff" next Christmas so I thought this would be a fun tradition to revisit in our home.

Also fun was making the little pockets to hold their monthly coupons and of course, making these look cute! I started by picking out scraps of paper that I thought fit the style and/or personality of each child.

To begin, choose your papers and cut squares that are 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches. If you are doing one per month as I did, of course, you will need twelve squares per card you want to make.

Cut a little slit at the two bottom corners as shown above.






Fold back the two side flaps like this.



Trim off the pointy corners that stick out.


Fold the bottom edge up to create your pocket.


Repeat for each pocket. Glue onto a piece of card stock using a line of hot glue around the three folded edges.







Now for the fun part - coming up with your coupon ideas! I had a couple of criteria in choosing these:
* not something I do all the time anyway
* not expensive
* not difficult to execute
* definitely something fun and enjoyable!

I tried to choose things I know my children love doing but that I might be reluctant to do on a regular basis.

Here are the coupons included:

January: pick out your favorite treat from the grocery store
February: Tea Party
March: Breakfast in Bed
April: Play a game with Mama
May: Go out for ice cream
June: Go to the beach
July: Go swimming
August: Movie Marathon with snacky's!
September: Camp out in the living room
October: Picnic and Park
November: Go out for breakfast
December: Pick a fun holiday thing to do together

Next, I wrapped up with wax paper and some cute string/twine and on the girls some tiny brads to hold the sides closed. I didn't spend anything to make the cards, but of course a few of the coupons will cost a little bit.